Friday was the first anniversary of my father’s death. As my long-time readers know, my dad used to be the star of this blog. So as a tribute, I’ve gathered some of his most memorable moments.
The main thing anyone should know about my dad is that he loved money to the exclusion of everything else. This incident happened last year when we went to New York to take care of his affairs.
Our lawyer got the court to allow us access to his safe deposit box while we were still in town. We talked to the bank manager. She was very nice and led us into her office, which was right across from the safe deposit boxes. We handed her the key and she unlocked the box and put it on her desk. She asked us to sign that we opened it, and handed us two stapled signature cards. My dad had signed at least 50 times. Why would someone go to their safe deposit box that much? In our box’s three-year history, I’d opened it twice.
“How often did he open it?” I asked.
The manager laughed. “He came here about three times a week. He’d open his box and go sit in the room with it. It’s right there, next to my office. I’d knock after a while – I do that with all old people. We want to make sure they’re okay. Plus he usually came about 4:45 when we were getting ready to close and we wanted to go home. He’d answer me and sit there a while longer. We can’t kick them out. When he was done, he’d come out and hand me the box to lock up.” read more
Ever since my dad died, I’ve been thinking about what I did for him, what I could have done, and what I should have done.
When I called my aunt to tell her my dad was dying, I told her that the doctor had recommended a pacemaker but Dad’s living will forbade it so we didn’t do it. “A pacemaker?” she said. “Why didn’t you get a pacemaker? Pacemakers save lives.” The day I made that decision, Dad had been flirting with reality for a while already. His living will said that if he wasn’t expected to make a full recovery, I shouldn’t allow the doctors to use any “artificial means” of support. And I looked it up. Pacemaker was at the top of that list. But when I talked to my aunt, all the doubts came back. read more
When it’s about Dad, you know nothing comes easy. For a guy who spent a portion of every visit showing me where the keys to the safe were – in the baseboard heater, the old vacuum cleaner bag, tucked under the ironing board cover – he sure didn’t do anything to ease the transfer of his estate. When I asked him to just give me a key to the safe, he refused. Didn’t want it falling into the wrong hands. I live 3,000 miles away. Which wrong hands were going to steal the key, fly to New York, find his house, and break into his safe? read more
After my dad’s funeral, we began the first monumental task: wrapping up his financial affairs. Dad’s money was his favorite thing. We thought he would’ve treated it better.
My Dad got his will from legalforms.com or whoever else peddles legal forms to unsuspecting octogenarians on the web. For a man who always claimed his browser was “broken,” he found a way to buy and print a will. Then, in all caps — he couldn’t work the shift key — he typed his name, my name, signed it and had it witnessed and notarized. If he’d stopped right there, it would have been easy to transfer his stuff to my name. But nothing is easy with my dad. He downloaded another form to establish a trust. The trust is another way to pass on money, and totally unnecessary. To use a trust, you must set your money up in trust accounts. Loosely translated, a trust is an account that requires your beneficiary to jump through more hoops than Shamu trying to get a fish. My father did all of this jockeying to avoid paying a lawyer to write his will and to eliminate the need for a lawyer when he died. read more
After my dad’s funeral, we spent a week working on financial matters and loose ends. After that, we dropped the kids off with their Yiaya in order to start the epic and nightmarish task of cleaning out my father’s house.
My husband took the basement and garage and I took the upstairs. In the garage, my dad had strung a board from the wall at ground level that groaned from the weight of all the crap he’d stored behind it. My husband found tools, pipes, brooms and every wooden handle to every shovel or rake my dad had ever owned. In addition to that, he found three lawnmowers and a nook with charcoal stored next to gas, next to brake fluid, next to matches, oil, cans of compressed gas, cleaning solvents, and old rags. “I can’t believe this place didn’t go up in flames,” he told me. I wished we were that lucky. read more